Canberra, Jan 21 (IANS) Australia’s Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Tuesday warned that the government’s promised budget surplus could be jeopardized by the bushfire crisis.
Frydenberg had previously promised to deliver a budget surplus of A$5 billion ($3 billion) in financial year 2019-20, the first surplus since 2007-08, reports Xinhua news agency.
However, he conceded that the surplus could be diminished by the “uncertain” economic impacts of bushfire that have affected Australia’s states and territories.
“The budget is back in balance for the first time in 11 years,” he said.
“What the Australian people know is that when you are responsible for economic managers you have the financial flexibility to respond to crises and economic shocks whenever they may occur. This is one.”
The government has announced A$500 million ($343 million) in funding for bushfire relief efforts this financial year.
Frydenberg said that while that figure would not be enough to threaten the surplus, the impact on tourism and the housing market could have far-reaching implications.
Earlier this month, the Australian Tourism Export Council warned that the fires could cost the industry A$4.5 billion ($3 billion) in calendar year 2020 alone, with foreign visitors already cancelling their plans to visit the country.
The Business Council of Australia (BCA) has said that the government can be excused for failing to deliver a surplus because of the extraordinary circumstances.
Since September, blazes have killed at least 29 people, destroyed over 2,000 homes and burnt through 10 million hectares of land – an area almost the size of England.
The crisis has been exacerbated by record temperatures, a severe drought and climate change.